Anything you can find in New York City, you can also find its opposite. This is a city of contrasts.
I’m Seth Kugel, travel writer for the New York Times. I love exploring New York and nothing against your standard spots like the Empire State Building, Coney Island, and the Bronx Zoo but the city always has something unexpected to offer. Let’s check out a new way to spend a weekend in New York.
If you arrive on a metro north train, you enter the dramatic movie set, ready main, concourse of Central Station, where New York’s majesty, color, and excitement are on full display.
Man: I’m just here as a tourist. Yeah, I want to see it. I’ve got a poster of this on my way back home in Sweden. And so yeah, I wanted to see it of course.
You can also eat at smaller versions of great New York eateries in the upscale dining concourse or at the famous oyster bar restaurant.
Across town is Penn Station. Not the magnificent Penn Station they tore down in 1964 but the cramped, crowded, entirely subterranean Penn Station of right now.
Man: I’m just thinking of this room here as sort of the opposite of ornate and majestic. It’s pre-fab and kind of ugly looking. Instead of attracting tourists, this place repels its regulars.
Lady: It’s really fun when they put two trains on corresponding tracks so that there’re two swarms of people coming to the same entrance. And for those who do stick around, the dining choices are well…very highway rest stop.
First time visitor? Then you might find yourself on Grey Line’s New York sightseeing tour. My conversation with these ladies from Tennessee quickly turned to food.
Ladies: We went to Lombardi’s yesterday in Little Italy. McDonald’s last night, everything else was closed. It was the only thing that was open. Can we have some advice from our tour guide here?
Tour guide: I mean you’re in New York. If you go around Times Square, like outside Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen and stuff, you’ll find a lot of great restaurants, unique restaurants, all different types of cuisines, cheap prices as well. You know, so if you just dig a little bit.
But if you don’t have time to do all the digging yourself you might opt for “famous fat Dave’s five borough eating tour”. Dave is actually only kind of fat and only kind of famous having gained notoriety from his four hour tours of eateries that take you through New York City.
Dave: I just drive a cab, I talk to everybody and I then find out where they eat and then I realize I got this list of awesome places to eat. And I just decided, you know, take people on a tour.
Unlike the Grey Line, Dave’s tours are unplanned and unscripted. Lady: Hello, welcome to Harlem. Hello, hello. Hello, welcome to Harlem. Thank you very much.
But if you prefer that your appetizer and entrée come from the same kitchen then relax in the lavish setting of Buddakan. With its soaring ceilings, precision service and army of Chinese and other chefs. To pay for all those chefs and the rent, entrees at Buddakan cost up to forty-four dollars. That’s the Peking Duck.
For a slightly more casual dining experience you could try Lunch Box Buffet on Division Street in Chinatown. Where four entrees plus rice will cost you four dollars.
Man: You get a good deal here so it’s the best place to come, you know. Still too much? Head a few blocks north to make a meal out of the five huge dumplings you get at Prosperity Dumpling for one buck.
So, are you into Buddakan or dollar dumplings? Grey Line or Famous Fat Dave’s? Penn Station or Grand Central? If you answered, “all of the above” then you could just call yourself a New Yorker. Woman: I love it. I would move here.